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O Pioneers! (1913)

by Willa Cather

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Prairie Trilogy (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,9931651,510 (3.88)1 / 509
A Swedish family migrate to Nebraska at the turn of the 20th century. The daughter of the family inherits the land when her father dies, and the story follows her struggle to maintain it when many around her are leaving the prairie in defeat. There are two romantic narratives in the novel: that of the daughter and a family friend, and of her brother and a married woman.… (more)
  1. 31
    The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas (clif_hiker)
    clif_hiker: pioneer women facing hardship making a home and a life on the prairie...
  2. 10
    My Ántonia by Willa Cather (cometahalley)
  3. 00
    Benediction by Kent Haruf (cometahalley)
  4. 00
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf (cometahalley)

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» See also 509 mentions

English (153)  Spanish (2)  Italian (1)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (159)
Showing 1-5 of 153 (next | show all)
I never wanted to be a pioneer, but Cather sure showed me how that sort of life could be appealing to many people. ( )
  mykl-s | Apr 2, 2023 |
Some of the names in this book jarred with me, but on the whole I enjoyed it. Particularly Alexandra and her confidence in taking a risk and making it work, not just for herself but her brothers, who apart from the youngest, Emil, don't understand or appreciate her. ( )
  mari_reads | Feb 4, 2023 |
Set in “Hanover”, Nebraska, our story starts (The Wild Land) thirty years before the book’s publication, so about 1883 and the first section describes the hard farming life of Nordic and German immigrants, with their young families. In particular, Alexandra Bergson, daughter of John who dies at 46 having tried to farm 640 acres for eleven years. Alexandra , having more agricultural and business shrewdness, is left in charge of her three brothers, two of whom are old enough to work the land.
This is a mixed farm, with arable, beef, hogs, hens and a dairy cow for their own milk, with a cottage garden to provide vegetables. John had paid off the mortgage before he died, being a more successful farmer than many of his neighbours.
After a couple of poor agricultural years, this section ends with Alexandra persuading her brothers not to sell up, to stay farming and to take out a new mortgage to buy more land, as many neighbours sell up to return east to easier employment (but without the possibility of improvement).
I found this really engaging and interesting, as one of my grandfathers was a farmer, with three sons who became farmers, although my mother married away from the farm.

The next section (Neighboring Fields) is set sixteen years after John Bergson died, so more than ten years from when the family decided to stay and buy more land.
The story moves wonderfully, tragically, inexorably on, and is not surprising.
But the farmland, the landscape, the land, is beautifully described, evoked, brought to life. It is this that for me lifts this story above the melodramatic. ( )
  CarltonC | Jan 6, 2023 |
I was disappointed in this work on several grounds. First, the character development was shallow at best. Second, although I had hoped for a compelling description of the pioneer culture, the treatment was superficial. Finally, the actual writing and storyline struck me as simplistic. In fairness, I just finished reading The Grapes of Wrath- which accomplishes all of these things on a completely different level and is a far superior work.

Moderately entertaining, but I would not recommend the book as there are far better options. ( )
  la2bkk | Jan 6, 2023 |
This one really resonates for me because of my Scandinavian pioneer heritage. The land is almost a character of its own in the novel and that part of of the novel really stood out for me. The doomed romance seemed a little out of character from the rest of the book, but didn't detract from the overall effect for me. Beautiful prose with a strong female protagonist. ( )
  AliceAnna | Dec 16, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 153 (next | show all)
There isn't a vestige of 'style' as such: for page after page one is dazed at the ineptness of the medium and the triviality of the incidents...

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willa Catherprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bartolome, Gema MoralTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blue, M. E.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brown, Cary ThorpCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A. S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Clements, MarcelleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Danker, KathleenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davey, PatriciaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elias, MonicaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fuller III, William P.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gelfant, Blanche H.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gornick, VivianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grumbach, DorisForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ivey, DanaContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Janeway, ElizabethIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kraus, ChrisIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lindemann, MarileeEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McCulloh, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mignon, Charles W.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Moral Bartolomé, GemmaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Brien, SharonEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perrin, NoelAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosowski, Susan J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weakley, MarkIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodward, MabelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.
To the memory of
Sarah Orne Jewett
in whose beautiful and delicate work
there is the perfection
that endures
First words
One January day, thirty years ago, the little town of Hanover, anchored on a windy Nebraska tableland, was trying not to be blown away. A mist of fine snowflakes was curling and eddying about the cluster of low drab buildings huddled on the gray prairie, under a gray sky. The dwelling-houses were set about haphazard on the tough prairie sod; some of them looked as if they had been moved in overnight, and others as if they were straying off by themselves, headed straight for the open plain. None of them had any appearance of permanence, and the howling wind blew under them as well as over them. The main street was a deeply rutted road, now frozen hard, which ran from the squat red railway station and the grain “elevator” at the north end of the town to the lumber yard and the horse pond at the south end. On either side of this road straggled two uneven rows of wooden buildings; the general merchandise stores, the two banks, the drug store, the feed store, the saloon, the post-office. The board sidewalks were gray with trampled snow, but at two o’clock in the afternoon the shopkeepers, having come back from dinner, were keeping well behind their frosty windows. The children were all in school, and there was nobody abroad in the streets but a few rough-looking countrymen in coarse overcoats, with their long caps pulled down to their noses. Some of them had brought their wives to town, and now and then a red or a plaid shawl flashed out of one store into the shelter of another. At the hitch-bars along the street a few heavy work-horses, harnessed to farm wagons, shivered under their blankets. About the station everything was quiet, for there would not be another train in until night.
The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
People have to snatch at happiness when they can, in this world. It is always easier to lose than to find.
Those fields, colored by various grain! - Mickiewicz
When the road began to climb the first long swells of the Divide, Alexandra hummed an old Swedish hymn, and Emil wondered why his sister looked so happy. Her face was so radiant that he felt shy about asking her. For the first time, perhaps, since that land emerged from the waters of geologic ages, a human face was set toward it with love and yearning. It seemed beautiful to her, rich and strong and glorious. Her eyes drank in the breadth of it, until her tears blinded her. Then the Genius of the Divide, the great, free spirit which breathes across it, must have bent lower than it ever bent to a human will before. The history of every country begins in the heart of a man or a woman.
But that, as Emil himself had more than once reflected, was Alexandra's blind side, and her life had not been of the kind to sharpen her vision. Her training had all been toward the end of making her proficient in what she had undertaken to do. Her personal life, her own realization of herself, was almost a subconscious existence; like an underground river that came to the surface only here and there, at intervals months apart, and then sank again to flow on under her own fields. Nevertheless, the underground stream was there, and it was because she had so much personality to put into her enterprises and succeeded in putting it into them so completely, that her affairs prospered better than those of her neighbors.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

A Swedish family migrate to Nebraska at the turn of the 20th century. The daughter of the family inherits the land when her father dies, and the story follows her struggle to maintain it when many around her are leaving the prairie in defeat. There are two romantic narratives in the novel: that of the daughter and a family friend, and of her brother and a married woman.

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Book description
Alexandra is the eldest child of the Bergsons, a ship-building family from Norway who have come to the American Midwest to wrest their living from another kind of frontier. Alexandra is driven by two great forces:her fierce protective love for her young brother Emil, and her deep love of the land. When her father dies, worn out by disease and debt, it is she who becomes head of the family and begins the long, hard process of taming the country, forcing it to yield wheat and corn where only the grass and wildflowers had grown since time began. Through the life, hopes, successes - and failures - of this magnificent woman we learn the story of all the immigrants who came to carve out new homes for themselves, who struggled against ignorance, drought, storm, poverty and came to love and understand the earth until it rewarded them with richness beyond measure.
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Average: (3.88)
1 20
1.5 3
2 38
2.5 17
3 232
3.5 74
4 451
4.5 54
5 272

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